07 October 2010

Scottish DIY Labels #11 - Song By Toad

Would you care to introduce yourself?

Matthew Young, owner/writer/etc.. Song, by Toad & Song, by Toad Records

What inspired you to start your own label?

I just got to know too many good unsigned bands because of writing the blog. I had an audience reading the site already, so it made sense to try and bring the two together.

Who do you have signed to your label?

In chronological order: Meursault, Loch Lomond, Jesus H. Foxx, Maxwell Panther, Trips and Falls, Animal Magic Tricks, Inspector Tapehead, Yusuf Azak, The Savings and Loan, King Post Kitsch (I think).

Being based in Scotland do you only sign Scottish artists?

Nope – Trips and Falls are from Montreal and Loch Lomond from Portland – but in general I try and do that as at this level you have to work pretty closely with people, so it helps to be in the same place.

Inspector Tapehead - Yarvil

Is this something you do as a hobby or can you make a living from it?

I am full-time now, but yet to make anything you could even come close to describing as a living. In the long run I hope to make a living out of music, but whether that comes from things initiated by the blog or by the label remains to be seen.

Do you have a certain type of sound that you look for in a band?

No, although you might not know that to listen to what we've released so far as it is all pretty folky.

How do you go about deciding which artists you want to work with? How do you go about approaching them?

We have a few key criteria: I have to love the music, I have to like and trust the band and they have to genuinely want to work with us. Recently, as we've become busier I've had to start adding additional filters, like whether or not I honestly feel I have the time or money to do a release justice. It would be downright wrong to release something and then half-arse my way through it because I have taken on too much and have too little time. In terms of approaching them, I tend to be pissed and giddy with excitement after a really good gig and then slur some sort of stupid off at a band. Doing that with Broken Records is how we actually ended up starting the label – making drunken promises we then had to live up to.

Cold Seeds - Leave Me to Lie Alone in the Ground

What has been you personal highlight from running the label so far? What has been your biggest success?

Possibly the Cold Seeds record actually. A large part of why that album happened at all is because we provided an environment where artists felt comfortable coming together and collaborating and experimenting, and I am really quite proud of that because more than any other album we've released I feel like I actually helped that album to happen in the first place.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to start up their own label, what would it be and why?

Never do it because you want to achieve something in particular, because the work is never finished. There is always more you could do, more you want to do, and there is no job you couldn't do better. You have to enjoy the actual process – the tedious daily grind of sending endless emails and trawling the internet to find new bloggers to send thing to and constant pointless phonecalls and on and on and on – because that tedious admin is the fundamental day to day reality of running a record label. Also, you don't need to spend money, so don't over-reach on specific releases. Bands don't like to hear it, but if you go all out in the beginning and pay for a PR company, a radio plugger, a studio, someone professional to master it, a thousand copies of the album, an expensive booking agent and a manager, then unless lightning strikes (which it statistically is almost certain not to) then you will find yourself in a massive hole very quickly. So do as much as you possibly can yourself, even if it means you don't get a review in Mojo, or you end up with a tour which includes some toilet venue in Leicester. It's a very thin piece of pie, so try and avoid slicing it too thinly, because absolutely everyone takes money off your bottom line. Also, bands who play a lot live sell records. Those who don't, don't – it's that simple. So if you're working with a band who doesn't really play that much don't make too many of their record. You can always make more if you sell out, and that way you won't end up with 100 copies of the Red Well album cluttering up your hallway.

Meursault - Crank Resolutions

What can we expect to see and hear from the label in the future?
Well we've got new releases from Yusuf Azak, Inspector Tapehead, The Savings and Loan (all 2010) and Animal Magic Tricks (early 2011, probably) all on the immediate horizon. That's just future releases though. More interestingly (I think), we are looking for way of releasing albums much faster. We're looking to start a new kind of release which is a lot more stripped back an non-precious. We won't even try and get it into the national glossies, so the lead time comes down to about a month or so. We'll be doing short runs of really basically packaged CDs (a bit like Nothing Broke by Meursault), and trying to encourage bands to experiment a bit and try things out – take some risks, basically. So far we have a Neil Pennycook solo album pencilled in, we're re-releasing Yusuf Azak's first two EPs like this too, and we'll be releasing the King Post Kitsch record this way as well. Finally, I think we might have a collaboration between James Scott (Conquering Animal Sound/Japanese War Effort), Jonnie Common (Inspector Tapehead), Neil Pennycook (Meursault) and Drew (Wounded Knee) which will be called Beggar's Benison. It's a concept album and is a long way from being finished, so I wouldn't expect anything too soon out of this one.

Song By Toad Records

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8/10/10

    He's right. You don't want to go to Leicester.